Blamuel Njururi, Kenya Confidential Editor-in-Chief, Nairobi, May 12, 2018
On preservation of water catchments, Bamboos have been rated highly because of their fast growing, less water demand and intensive ground cover
To mark the National Tree Planting re-introduction in Kenya, yesterday I Petitioned Parliament requesting the National Assembly to Enact Bamboo Resources Development Authority. Bamboo is a miracle plant that has been ignored in Kenya since independence.
The proposed Bamboo Resources Development Authority (to be known in short as Bamboo Authority or technically as BAREDA) will address key issues in enhancing Bamboo production in Kenya for Economic Exploitation, Wood Resources, Livelihood Support. It will also promote Green Commercial Development to further protection of forest areas and facilitate exploitation of Bamboo plants for products ranging from food, medicine, ornamental and furniture products.
The Bamboo industry will generate job opportunities and trigger industrial growth in line with the National “Big 4” Development Policy and Vision 2030 expectations. No Parastatal exists to exclusively promote Bamboo resources products.
1: Significance and purpose:
The Bamboo Resources Development Authority will spearhead introduction of Bamboo crop and conservation of existing materials for sustainable development critical for Kenya’s economy and development.
Bamboo being a gramineae or the grass family has the ability to grow satisfactorily across a wide range of ecological conditions. Its rapid growth rate endows it with enormous productive potential under short rotations.
The flexibility in the utilization of various sizes of Bamboo plants gives it great advantage over other woody plant species in realizing quick economic returns particularly among poor rural communities that are currently involved in forest-based micro-enterprises as a source of livelihood support
Such micro-enterprises have become critical incentives promoting sustainable forest conservation, under the new forest management paradigms.
Bamboo management is also favourable to rural communities because upon cutting, regrowth through shoots, old stumps are readily renewed, thus making it an ideal species for farm forestry. This reality reduces investment and management costs. Further, Bamboo have a wide range of uses as an individual species, rural farm crop and biodiversity conservation purposes.
On preservation of water catchments, Bamboos have been rated highly because of their fast growing, less water demand and intensive ground cover.
Mainstreaming Bamboo planting and development in Kenya and training local stakeholders on innovative ways of using Bamboo species in achieving fast wealth creation stand to win support of the government of Kenya and help in achieving some of the UN Millennium development goals, earn Carbon Credit and propel the National Big Four objective of industrialization in wood products.
2. Bamboo Resources Development Authority Objectives
2 a. Overall Objective:
The Bamboo Resources Development Authority seeks to promote the cultivation and management of Bamboo as a component of integrated land use for sustainable livelihoods and industrial resources development.
2 b Specific objectives:
To determine promising Bamboo germplasm available in the country and candidates for introduction to support productive Bamboo production and integration in land use.
To undertake sensitization and awareness creation of Bamboo potential in development.
To develop and implement a comprehensive Bamboo cultivation and management in the coastal belt, the highlands and the Lake Victoria corridor.
Conduct training and capacity enhancement programme at all levels on crop production, management, product development, processing and industrial value addition.
Spearhead sustainable management, development and utilization of Bamboo by borrowing techniques from other stronger economies that have used Bamboo over the years to initiate and enhance sustainable rural development.
Assessment, documentation and dissemination of information for various types of Bamboo utilization as potentials for producing valuable goods and services such as food and related livelihood sources to revamp rural development.
Generating accurate information on the most successful Bamboo species and their various geographical ranges to build a database that could be shared with various stakeholders that need to invest in Bamboo as an enterprise.
Developing technologies for product development and processing enhanced value addition.
Organizing community based enterprises promoting use and marketing of goods and services from Bamboo.
Training of stakeholders and trainers in various uses of Bamboo resources as a means of wealth creation.
Establishment of nurseries in various regions in Kenya with assorted species of Bamboo seedlings to meet demand in ‘the country.
Establish demonstration plots in various sites in Kenya to show best practices and planting techniques.
3.0: Bamboo Resources Development Authority key activities:
Environmental restoration and protection.
Regulate Rehabilitation and Reclamation of degraded riparian and wastelands,
Develop a Bamboo Development 5-year Action Plan.
On-farm Bamboo plantation establishment.
Biomass availability for industrial development.
Community Capacity Building on Bamboo products and value addition enhancing Community-based industrial approaches.
Prepare a Bamboo Resources Market Annual Report.
Develop Bamboo Policy Report.
Produce National Bamboo Resource Assessment Annual Report.
Bamboo has very many uses and products
4: Background information on Bamboo
4 a) Status of Bamboo Germplasm in Kenya:
i) Indigenous Bamboo species:
Kenya has only one indigenous Bamboo species namely Arundinaria alpina. The largest Bamboo patches of the species are found in high altitude areas (2000masl and above) such as Aberdares, Mau ranges, Mount Kenya and Mount Elgon. The amount available in farmlands is not known since inventory has not been undertaken.
ii) Exotic Bamboo species:
About 11 Bamboo species have been introduced through cuttings, offsets and seeds in Kenya from south East Asian countries and are on trial in plantations in Muguga.
These include Oxytenanthera abyssinica (A. Rich) Munro, Bambusa vulgaris Schrad ex Wendl, Bambusa bambos, Dendrocalamus strictus, Dendrocalamus hamiltonii,
Dendrocalamus asper, Dendrocalamus membranacea, Bambusa tulda, Bambusa vulgaris var striata, Thyrsostachys siamensis.
However, these species are in trial stages in Muguga, Kakamega, Siaya and Gede, and are doing well, but are yet to be widely planted by farmers. Demonstration plots have been established at various ecological zones as part of Bamboo promotion strategy.
4 b) Local uses of Bamboo:
- There is an official ban on Bamboo commercial cutting in the country for they are located on water catchment areas where most of the country’s rivers emanate.
- Due to the ban, there is no formal authority for Bamboo cutting and hence there is no consistent pattern of production and most Bamboo is used for fencing and construction in addition to providing shades and ornamentals.
- This is in sharp contrast with what other countries have managed to exploit Bamboo for in terms of Bamboo arts and handicrafts, Bamboo furniture, curtains, toothpicks, Bamboo flooring, medicines, food and aromatic products amongst others.
- Bamboo distribution in Kenya:
There are about 150,000 hectares of Bamboo forests in Kenya, mainly distributed in major forest regions in Kenya especially the equatorial Kakamega forests, Aberdares mountain regions” Mt. Elgon, Cherangani Hills, Mau Forest Complex, and Mt Kenya Forest.
Bamboo exists in Kenya in combination with trees and shrubs, with trees alone, with shrubs alone, as pure Bamboo stands and with alpine moorland vegetation.
In Kenya, only one type of Bamboo has been recorded, being indigenous and grows erect (Monopodial) as a single culm. The Kenyan Bamboo is a hollow-stemmed Bamboo growing up to 50 feet gregariously, but not in clumps from 7,500 to 11,000 feet on certain mountains within the country.
Kenya Forest Service engages in commercial plantations covering 134,000 hectares that can best be converted into natural forest by restoring the cleared land with indigenous trees or introducing Bamboo plantation for higher economic yields.
- Forests Loss in Kenya
Public plantation forest areas occupy 135,871 Ha and are distributed in 24 Counties across the country.
- Global Forest Watch (GFW) says that in 2016, Kenya lost 19,000 hectares of forest with 10 counties representing 53 per cent of all tree cover.
- Among counties, Narok has the largest tree cover – 243,000 hectares compared to a national counties average of 57,000 hectares, according to GFW.
- Other top counties are Lamu (212,000 hectares), Garissa (204,000), Nyeri (147,000), Kilifi (140,000) and Meru (112,000). The rest are Kericho (105,000 hectares), Bomet (97,700), Baringo (92,500) and Nandi (89,400).
- GFW says 10 Counties were responsible for more than half (69 per cent) of all tree cover loss between 2001 and 2016.
- Narok also had the largest tree cover loss of 57,500 hectares compared to a country average of 6,120 hectares.
- The other nine Counties with the greatest losses were Nakuru (27,700 hectares), Kilifi (20,400), Lamu (17,900) and Kwale (15,400). Others were Elgeyo-Marakwet (14,600 hectares), Kericho (12,900), Nandi (10,500), Uasin Gishu (10,500) and Baringo (10,300).
7: Forests problems and issues:
Kenya’s closed canopy forests have declined from 3% of the total land area at independence (early 1960s) to the present 1.7%.
The area under plantation forests has also reduced from 160,000 hectares in mid 1980s to less than 150,000 hectares today.
Forests cover loss has occurred in forests of important value to the country; the so-called Water Towers of the country. These are five, namely; Mt Kenya, Aberdares, Mt Elgon, Mau Complex and Cherangani forests which are the main water catchment forests in the country.
In addition, these forests and many others in Kenya are rich in biodiversity, wildlife habitats, are culturally important to local communities, provide firewood, grazing, medicines, food and other values to local adjacent communities.
8. Loss of forest cover in Kenya has been attributed to many factors including;
- Policy and legislative failures,
- Abuse of the shamba system that has been used for plantation forest establishment and which resulted into high backlog of planting due to lack of resources.
- The Nyayo Tea Zone programme that was intended to act as buffers to some indigenous forests but was used to conceal massive destruction of forest areas.
- Illegal logging, charcoal burning and selective harvesting.
- Illegal encroachment,
- Forest land excisions,
- Illegal cultivation,
- Unsustainable exploitation of forest produce,
- Poaching of timber, and,
- Frequent fire outbreaks, have failed to streamline forest regeneration and stem loss
8. Forests outside gazetted areas under threat
Forests outside Gazetted areas have also been threatened by expansion of agriculture, human settlements, charcoal production and uncontrolled grazing.
Continued loss of forests and associated resources has had far reaching negative effects on the country’s economy and welfare of Kenyans.
For example, some of the consequences include:
- Inadequate supply of timber and wood products affecting industrialization,
- Loss of employment,
- Loss of biodiversity,
- Destruction of water catchments functions manifested in reduced water supply for domestic and industrial consumption.
In the past years, development partners have tended to shy away from forestry for different reasons. Although the government has incorporated far reaching legislative policy and institutional reforms, it lacks resources to address challenges for sustainable production of goods and services for livelihoods, development and resource conservation in the field of Bamboo.
Funding for developing alternative woody forest resources are urgent and, real and the little available need to be wisely used in bringing diversification in providing forest products.
Because of the unique Bamboo properties such as quick establishment, diversities in its uses, Bamboo Resources Development Authority will satisfy the growing demand for forest products for various uses in the country fast enough to bridge the existing gaps.
I confirm that the issues in respect of which this Petition is made are not pending before any court of law, or constitutional or legal body.
- And your Petitioner will forever thankfully pray.